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MINI debuts Steptronic dual-clutch gearbox. Image by MINI.

MINI debuts Steptronic dual-clutch gearbox
New twin-clutch auto box has seven speeds, nav-based shifting and coasting function.
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What's all this about?

MINI, believe it or not, has never had a twin-clutch gearbox within its ranks. Until now. That's about to change with the introduction of a new automatic option that features a pair of clutches within its bellhouse.

OK, so does it go with BMW's DCT terminology, that is used for this type of transmission?

Oddly enough, no; instead, it's being called a Steptronic.

But I thought Steptronic was BMW's name for a 'proper' torque-converter automatic?

It is, yet that doesn't seem to have stopped MINI. In essence, this will probably replace the six- and eight-speed Steptronics (the 'proper' auto transmissions) that are currently offered as an alternative to the six-speed manual. It will initially be available on the MINI three-door, five-door and Convertible lines. MINI says it will be coupled to 'selected engines' but then doesn't tell us precisely which engines will benefit. We do know it operates in much the same way as these twin-clutch units tend to do - there's one clutch for the odd-numbered ratios and reverse, and another handling the even-numbered gears. Then there are a few more natty features.

Such as?

MINI says the double-clutch transmission is operated by 'means of a newly-designed electronic selector lever, which always returns to its original position' after the driver has chosen one of D for drive, N for neutral or R for reverse. The Park function is operated by a 'P' button on the lever. It can also work with the engine start/stop feature, has a coasting function (both of these systems aim to reduce fuel consumption and emissions) and it can employ a shift strategy based on navigation data - yes, much like that first seen on Rolls-Royces. The gearbox knows when you're approaching a steep hill or sharp corner, and will automatically shift up and down accordingly, without any additional throttle or driver inputs, if it thinks a change of ratios is necessary.

Anything else to add?

Yup, MINI chose seven speeds in order to be able to offer the best of both worlds in terms of brisk acceleration and cruising economy. The twin-clutch Steptronic has a crawl function, much like a conventional automatic (and not at all like BMW's old SMG units, which didn't creep until you touched the accelerator or were on a noticeable down gradient). The transmission is also equipped with a dual-mass flywheel with an integrated centrifugal pendulum, for the technical geeks among you.

Matt Robinson - 15 Dec 2017

2018 MINI Steptronic auto. Image by MINI.2018 MINI Steptronic auto. Image by MINI.2018 MINI Steptronic auto. Image by MINI.2018 MINI Steptronic auto. Image by MINI.2018 MINI Steptronic auto. Image by MINI.    - MINI road tests
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